I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
all my adult life but never took it
seriously until three years ago when, motivated by the number of
poorly-written and ill-conceived films that made it to the screen, by a
conviction that I could write much better stories and dialogue than I was
seeing, and by what I felt were intriguing ideas I had for several films, I
finally decided to make an intense effort to get into the field.
I know I've succeeded........
simply by having completed and
repeatedly revised two scripts that have placed well in a number of
screenwriting contests and received essentially favorable reactions from
several professional feedback providers.
Beyond this, even if I never earn significant money for my work, is the
intense satisfaction of having created stories and characters that didn't
exist before, and now do. I derive no small satisfaction from at least
attempting to write something of an artistic nature for its own sake
My inspiration to write CAT'S EYES.......
is the direct result of occasional insomnia!
Lying on my back in bed, a bit intimidated by the pitch black and utter
silence (one's mortality invariably comes to mind under such conditions),
feeling even more alert than during the day, my fantasies---heroic,
adventurous, sexual and fearful---tended to arise, primarily for their
personal entertainment value, and in order to keep filling the boring,
sleepless hours still at hand, it's logical to consciously begin manipulating
such fantasies into realistic linear stories, with a beginning, middle and
What inspired you to write?
Harvey Papush: As I noted earlier, I was motivated by the
number of poorly-written and ill-conceived films that made it to the
screen, by a conviction that I could write much better stories and
dialogue than I was seeing, and by what I felt were intriguing ideas I
had for several films.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Harvey Papush:I read a dozen books on screenwriting, read
numerous scripts downloaded from the internet, bought the necessary
software, and started writing.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
Harvey Papush: "Cat's Eyes" is my fourth and most recent
script. I completed the first draft 1˝ years ago, and the most recent
polish a few weeks ago. But it took me about 15 months to get it to
its present, essentially "final" version.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
No, I write in various places (home, office or during my commute to
and from work), whenever I can combine available time with inspiration
and motivation. I tend to work more intensively when I'm dealing with
a full draft or serious rewrite. In between such, I'll often work only
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
If you limit yourself to major or other reputable contests, such as
Filmmakers International, and do well in them, you know that your
efforts are being rewarded and that you have some degree of writing
talent. It also enables you to compile a resumé of successful contest
placements for purposes of promoting and marketing your script.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?
Because there are so many contests and the time, effort and cost
required to enter them can add up, I use Moviebytes.com to screen out
the wheat from the chaff. Prior contestants' report cards and
commentary are extremely helpful in this regard, as is a review of the
contests' websites. Filmmakers International was one of the more
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
That's really a matter of personal taste---you should simply try to
read the scripts of films whose stories, dialogue and style you truly
enjoyed and admired in order to see what they looked like on paper as
compared to the screen version. Invariably, the script is better, more
cohesive and more complete than the film (sometimes substantially so!)
because of all the cuts and revisions that occur during the transition
to the screen.
In terms of scripts I wanted to read, I sought out nearly anything I
could get my hands on by Charlie Kaufman and the Coen Brothers because
of their often unique, innovative stories and unusual, quirky, even
slightly bizarre styles. I would heartily recommend "Barton Fink",
"The Man Who Wasn't There", "Being John Malkovitch", "Fargo", "Adadptation"
and "Blood Simple", for starters.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Harvey Papush: Film Noir, Peter Lorre in his prime, good wine
and exotic women; the latter continuously, since the age of six.
Fortunately, my wife fits into that category and is one of the most
alluring women her age I know, so I'm covered in real time, though,
like Jimmy Carter, I am unfaithful in my mind, typically two or three
times a day.
Beyond that, it's straight downhill: I follow politics and the stock
market fairly closely, and am always on the lookout for new, good, yet
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
Harvey Papush: As noted earlier, Charlie Kaufman and the Coen
Brothers because of their often unique, innovative stories and
unusual, quirky, even slightly bizarre styles. Although they say every
conceivable plot has already been made in one film or another, and all
new movies are merely the latest variants of same, I'd like someone to
show me the prior equivalent of Kaufman's "Being John Malkovitch" and
"Eternal Sunshine…", or the Coens' "Barton Fink" and "Adaptation".
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Harvey Papush: Any director who treats films as, above all, a
serious art form and strives to be associated with intelligent,
interesting, innovative and artistic films. That would include
Scorsese, the Coens, and Davids Lynch and Cronenberg.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
The same would apply as for
directors: Actors who consider their craft to be a serious form of art
and strive to limit their work to intelligent, interesting and
artistic films. This would include Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Sean
Penn, Johnny Depp (perhaps excluding his recent "pirate" movies),
Halle Berry, Helen Mirren, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.
But specifically in terms of "Cat's Eyes", I'd like Christopher Lee or
Anthony Hopkins as Gill, Kerry Washington as Athena and Paul Rudd as
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Just to make use of both professional
and casual feedback and give their commentary serious thought, and
also to enter the better-known contests. If your work consistently
places in the quarterfinals on up, you probably have a script worth
focusing on, improving and promoting. Conversely, if it doesn't,
figure out why not and either do an extensive rewrite or move on to
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Based on feedback and contest
results, I'm now convinced "Cat's Eyes" has both commercial potential
and artistic merit. Ghost/horror stories are always in vogue and,
given the number of simplistic or downright godawful slasher, vampire
and zombie movies presently dominating this genre, I feel a complex,
interesting, sexy, intelligent ghost story would stand out and be
well-received. I think I'm ready to try marketing it.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
If I've also optioned or sold one or
more scripts, that would be phenomenal, but if I haven't, at least I
can feel I wrote a few good stories that my grandchildren can carry
around on their portable USB drives. Being creative is very much its